Electronic Music in Germany: The Story

Electronic Music in Germany: The Story

When it comes to electronic music, Germany is not only an early adapter but a country of pioneers. Let’s take a look at the cultural and technological shifts that shaped Germany’s electronic music landscape.

The Early Years of EDM (Electronic Dance Music)

German technicians and musicians such as Karlheinz Stockhausen were among the first to develop, build and use electronic sound generators or synthesizers in the 1960’s and 70’s. In the beginning, the first tinkering with electronically created sounds wasn’t much more than modulating a sinus tone.

Even though the roots of electronic music lie in the reinvention of classical music, artists from other genres were quickly drawn in by the new possibilities. The most important band in this aspect, but also one of the most important German bands in general, was Kraftwerk.


10 Surprising Songs That Sampled Kraftwerk – Billboard

Formed in Düsseldorf in 1970, Kraftwerk is a pioneering German electronic band widely acknowledged as innovators in the genre. Among the first to popularize electronic music, Kraftwerk initially emerged from West Germany’s experimental krautrock scene in the early 1970s. They later fully embraced electronic instrumentation, incorporating synthesizers, drum machines, and vocoders.

Achieving commercial success with albums like Autobahn (1974), Trans-Europe Express (1977), The Man-Machine (1978), and Computer World (1981), Kraftwerk developed a distinctive “robot pop” style. Complementing their musical style, the band adopted a stylized image, often appearing in matching suits.

Their work was enormously influential on countless other musicians, artists and people in general. One of the best-known examples that prove Kraftwerk’s impact on music is that a sample from one of the bands songs was essential in the quasi-invention of hip hop by Afrika Bambaataa.

Development in the 1990’s

In the 1980’s the sound of synthesizers, drum machines and electronic keyboards coined the “Neue Deutsche Welle”, basically Germany’s version of wave music. But as electronic music was not only “invented” in one place, the development of technologies and opportunities didn’t just occur in Germany. Entering the age of global communication, the international exchange became quicker and quicker.

Different subcultural and social circumstances benefited the quasi-simultaneous creation of techno and house music in different places. Though they might not have been the only ones, Chicago, Detroit, London, Paris, and Berlin were the central breeding grounds for this new kind of music. The 1990’s brought a whole novel culture of music, dance and party.

The Love Parade

Techno and its musical relatives quickly turned from underground art to a massively popular phenomenon. In Berlin, the Love Parade was invented – a techno parade that witnessed an extreme growth of participants in a short amount of time.

Soon more than a million people celebrated the annually held parade. But this wasn’t the only electronic music spectacle. As the demand for raves grew, more and more gigantic techno parties were held in arenas and large music clubs all over the country.

At the same time, the large music labels understood that there was a lot of money to be made with electronic music, and the genre and its sub-genres soon became a huge market. This, of course, took its toll on the music itself, generating varieties of pop-techno, pop-trance or pop-house music, opening electronic music even further to the masses.

From a musical standpoint, this led to a great simplification of an already simply designed kind of music. Results were highly successful sub-genres like Eurodance, which in retrospect was in the uttermost cases badly made, horrible music.

Electronic Music in Germany

© Pixabay

The Rise of EDM

In the late 90’s the demand for large raves and dulled-down techno rapidly sunk and so did its popularity. Eurodance and its successors such as Schlager infused with electronic beats kept on going for a while, but soon the international rise of EDM (Electronic Dance Music) began.

This quite vaguely named musical genre is basically electronic/techno/pop created for large audiences. The stars of this development are internationally known acts such as David Guetta from France or the Kalkbrenner brothers from Germany.

The Status Quo of Electronic Music in Germany

Nowadays, electronic music like almost all music is globalized, meaning that even though Berlin is definitely one of the world’s capitals of electronic music hedonism, Germany cannot claim to be a harbor of pioneers of the trade. The technological development of musical instruments can be followed in concurrency to the development of electronic music itself. In the beginning, the instruments were analog electronic devices. They developed to cheaper and easier accessible instruments made up from digital technology and later fully migrated into computers, making it easy for anyone to create electronic music.

German Electro Artists and DJs

As we already mentioned, Kraftwerk was a highly influential electronic pop quartet that laid the foundations for synthesizer music in the 70s and 80s. Achieving international commercial fame and success, their songs, such as “Autobahn” and “The Model,” maintain a niche cultural following of huge fans in many countries up to this date.

Founded in 1995, Funker Vogt is a German electronic-industrial musical group known for its aggressive style. Their debut album, Thanks for Nothing, was released in 1996.

Wumpscut, a German dark electro-industrial group, was formed by Rudy Ratzinger in 1991. They made their debut with the album Defcon and remained active until 2017.

Project Pitchfork is a Dark Wave electronic artist based in Hamburg. He drew inspiration from New Wave artists, pop-oriented groups like SPK, and the New Wave movement of artists like Jean Michael Jean and Vangelis.

Wolfsheim, a German synthpop and darkwave band formed in 1987 in Hamburg, consisted of Heppner and Reinhardt. They released their debut album, Ken Manage, in 1988, but sadly, the duo split up in 2009 due to personal reasons.

Did you know you can learn German with music? We’re not sure if German electronic music will help, but we’re betting you can have a go!

FAQs about German electronic music

Here are some of the questions people ask about German electronic music.

How did techno become popular in Germany?

Techno gained popularity in Germany during the late 1980s and early 1990s, primarily in cities like Berlin. The reunification of East and West Germany played a role, as abandoned industrial spaces in East Berlin became venues for illegal raves. The genre’s association with nonconformity and the avant-garde also contributed to its widespread acceptance in German youth culture.

What is the German Krautrock genre?

Krautrock is a genre of experimental rock music that originated in Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is characterized by its avant-garde and improvisational approach, blending elements of progressive rock, electronic, psychedelic, and ambient music.

Who was the German founder of electronic music?

The German founder often credited with pioneering electronic music is Karlheinz Stockhausen. A composer and theorist, Stockhausen’s influential work in the mid-20th century laid the groundwork for the development of electronic music.

What Germany’s version of electronic new wave punk music was called?

Germany’s version of electronic new wave punk music is often associated with the genre called “Neue Deutsche Welle” (New German Wave). Emerging in the late 1970s and early 1980s, this movement featured a diverse range of experimental and electronic music, blending elements of punk, new wave, and synth-pop.

Summing Up: Electronic Music in Germany

While Germany’s electronic music scene has globalized, its impact remains undeniable. Exploring the evolution of the rise and fall of sub-genres, and the current status of electronic music in Germany is a dynamic journey reflecting the fusion of technology, culture, and creativity. If you’d like to know more about German culture, come join us on the SmarterGerman blog!